Peasants from Bukidnon, Mis. Or. to join march vs landlessness, rights violations

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/10 October) – Some 10,000 peasants from Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental are expected to march from Bukidon and Misamis Oriental from October 19-21 and converge in Cagayan de Oro City to drumbeat their demand for genuine agrarian reform in Northern Mindanao.

Dubbed “Lakbayang Mag-uuma alang sa Yuta, Katungod ug Katilingbanong Hustisya” (Peasant Protest March for Land, Rights and Social Justice), the protesters will start their journey from Quezon town in Bukidnon and from Lugait town and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental.

In a statement, groups allied with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao said the march will highlight not just land issues but also alleged human rights violations against their sector.

Danilo Menente, chairperson of Kasama-Bukidnon said that “global land grabbing” has endangered the survival of small farmers and farm workers in the province.

Menente, citing a definition by the Pesticide Action Network in Asia and the Pacific, described global land grabs as unjust terms through which transnational companies acquire ownership or control of lands in poor countries with government approval.

He noted that Bukidnon hosts the country’s largest plantations planted to banana and pineapple.

He said the phenomenon of “global land grabbing” in Bukidnon explains the reportedly rising cases of human rights violations against farmers in the province.

Menente cited the case of the 800 families of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Farmers’ Association, in Musuan, Maramag town.

BTL members have claimed a portion of Central Mindanao University’s farmlands in Musuan since the 1980s. The Department of Agrarian Reform decided in their favor. But the Supreme Court had reversed the DAR’s decision with finality.

Attempts by the group to stay in the lands they have been tilling for almost 30 years were allegedly met by attacks by CMU’s security guards.

For his part, Ireneo Udarbe, chairperson of the Misamis Oriental Farmer’s Association said they will highlight the dismal situations of the coconut farmers of the province during the Lakbayan.

“While coconut has been the province’s main produce, the coconut farmers and workers in coconut plantations and industries that serve as the backbone of the economy live miserably,” Udarbe said.

He said that according to the Philippine Coconut Authority, almost 64% of Misamis Oriental’s agricultural lands were allotted to coconut. For 2010 alone, he added, the value of the coconut products produced for export reached P17,541,941,598.00.

“But the 43,105 coconut farmers and farm workers are living below poverty level,” said Udarbe, who pointed out landlessness as the main problem.

“In the coconut plantations and individual coconut farms, agricultural workers receive a measly P120 up to P150 for a day’s work, far beyond the P269 minimum wage set by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) for agricultural workers,” he said. (MindaNews)